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Pictures of a newborn girl, who was pulled alive from under the rubble of a building, and a father embracing his late daughter, who was suspended between two concrete slabs, revealed the horror of the earthquake, whose death toll continues to rise, and has so far reached 8,300 people in Turkey and Syria.
According to the latest official figures published on Wednesday, 5,894 people were killed in Turkey and 2,470 in Syria, bringing the total death toll to 8,364.
In the bitter cold weather, relief workers continue their race against time to try to rescue survivors of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck at dawn on Monday in southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Bad weather complicates rescue operations. On Tuesday, Turkey’s interior minister warned that the next 48 hours would be “critical” for finding survivors.
In Gaziantep, the town very close to the epicenter of the earthquake, a resident said that she had lost hope of finding her aunt, who was trapped under the rubble, alive. “It is too late. Now we are waiting for our dead,” she added.
International aid began arriving in Turkey, where seven days of national mourning were declared. The death toll so far has reached 5,894, in what is considered the worst death toll recorded in Turkey since 1999, when 17,000 people were killed, including 1,000 in Istanbul.
In Syria, the death toll has reached 2,470 people so far. It is expected that the death toll will rise significantly, as hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubble, according to the Civil Defense.
“Where is the country?”
On both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border, work is underway to try to save lives. In Jenderes, on the Syrian side, a newborn baby girl was pulled from the rubble. This little girl was still connected by the umbilical cord to her mother, who was killed, like all the other members of the family.
Khalil Sawadi, one of the family members, told AFP on Tuesday, “We heard a sound while we were digging (…) We cleaned and found this little girl,” who was taken to hospital and is in stable condition, a doctor told AFP.
But for Irmak, 15, it is too late. His father, Mesut Hanger, was silently holding his dead daughter, who was pulled from the rubble of a building in Kahramanmaraş. No help arrived Tuesday in this devastated city of more than a million people covered in snow.
Ali asked, “Where is the state? Where is it? (…) Two days passed and we did not see anyone. (…) The children froze to death,” stressing that he, too, is waiting for reinforcements and still hopes to see his brother and nephew who are trapped under the rubble of the building that was destroyed. they reside in.
In the northern Syrian city of Soran, Mahmoud Primo fell to his knees in front of the rubble of his home. Not far away, the gray dome attests to the existence of a mosque there. “Years of war did not destroy us in this way,” he said. “We lost everything in an instant. We were completely destroyed,” he added.
Fearing to return home, survivors took refuge in the Turkish Gaziantep airport.
“Our lives now are characterized by uncertainty. How will I take care of these children?” said Zahid Sotko, who fled his apartment with his two young children.
For its part, the World Health Organization said that 23 million people “may have been affected by the earthquake, including about five million people in a vulnerable situation.”
The first foreign teams of rescue workers arrived Tuesday.
The Turkish president, who declared a three-month state of emergency in the 10 provinces affected by the quake, said 45 countries had offered their help.
The European Union announced the mobilization of 1,185 rescuers and 79 search dogs for Turkey from 19 of its member states, including France, Germany and Greece.
In Syria, the EU is in touch with its humanitarian partners on the ground and funds relief operations.
US President Joe Biden promised his Turkish counterpart to provide “all necessary assistance, whatever it may be.” Two rescue teams will arrive in Turkey on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, China announced the dispatch of $5.9 million in aid, specialized urban rescue workers, medical teams and emergency equipment.
Even Ukraine announced, despite the war with Russia, that it would send 87 rescue workers to Turkey.
The United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million in aid, while Saudi Arabia announced an air bridge to help affected populations in both countries.
But in Syria, Russia has heeded an appeal made by the authorities in Damascus. The military said more than 300 Russian soldiers are already at the site to help with relief.
The United States confirmed Tuesday that it is working with local NGOs in Syria to help earthquake victims. “In Syria itself, we have humanitarian partners that are funded by the United States and provide life-saving assistance,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters.
“We are determined to provide this assistance in order to help the Syrian people overcome this ordeal,” he added.